KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday set aside the price list published by the Pathanamthitta District Collector fixing the prices of various food items in the hotels and restaurants in Pathanamthitta district during the last Sabarimala pilgrimage season.
However the court made it clear that the judgment will not stand in the way of the District Collector or the Travancore Devaswom Board from fixing the price of food items in the hotels and restaurants in Sabarimala and Pampa which are temporarily put up during each pilgrimage season.
A Division Bench comprising Justice P N Ravindran and Justice Anil K Narendran passed the order while considering the petitions filed by Kerala Hotel and Restaurants Association Pathanamthitta district seeking to quash the price list issued on November 13, 2011. The petitioners also sought a declaration that the steps taken by the district administration to fix the price in their hotels and insisting on displaying it by replacing the existing price list are illegal and without jurisdiction.
The petitioners pointed out that though the representative of the association expressed its inability to reduce the price, the district collector unilaterally fixed the price of various items for hotels and restaurants in the district during Sabarimala season.
The state government submitted that the price fixation was made in order to ensure that food stuffs at a moderate and reasonable price are made available to the pilgrims during the season. It also pointed out that the highhanded exploitation made by the hoteliers was noticed by the Division Bench earlier.
The court pointed out that Kerala Food Stuffs (Display of Prices by Catering Establishments) order mandated displaying the price of food stuffs sold in hotels/restaurants and the provision do not authorise the district administration either to fix the price of food stuff. In the absence of an enabling provision for imposing such restrictions, it is impossible for the district administration to issue orders fixing the price unless the state applies its mind and brings in a legislation, which authorises restriction, thereby fettering the freedom of an entrepreneur.
“Taking into account the fact that a large number of pilgrims from North India and the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh visit Sabarimala during every pilgrimage season, the district administration officers should insist on the display of price list of food stuffs in English, Hindi, Kannada and Telugu,” the Bench also observed.
■ The order was passed while considering the plea filed by Kerala Hotel and Restaurants Association, Pathanamthitta district
■ The judgment won’t stand in the way of Collector or TDB from fixing the price of food items in the hotels and restaurants in Sabarimala and Pampa which are temporarily put up